KOTA KINABALU: Former PPBM women’s chief Anina Saadudin was roundly criticised by netizens, mostly from Sabah, after she questioned the use of billboards here to promote the Christian holy week of Easter.
In the post uploaded yesterday, Anina said previously, such an advertisement was only displayed on banners or buntings, but the advertisements have been upgraded now to billboards.
“If it’s not high enough, use a crane. If it’s not big enough, add more pillars so the size can be doubled. Next year, advertise on television. We are equal, right?” her post read.
The billboard was put up by the Church of Mary Immaculate in Bukit Padang, one of several billboards put up by the Catholic Church statewide to promote the four-day celebration, which started yesterday.
The advertisements are in Bahasa Malaysia, depicting the Last Supper and the Crucifixion, with wordings reminding Christians of Maundy Thursday and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
The holy week is the week before Easter, which falls this Sunday. The week starts from Palm Sunday followed by Spy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
Sabahans defend state’s unique interfaith relationship
Institute for Development Studies executive director Johan Ariffin Samad told FMT that Anina’s comments were neither helpful nor necessary.
“It only creates division and disharmony. Freedom of religion is guaranteed under our constitution and in Sabah our interfaith relationship has always been good and promoted by successive state governments,” he said.
He added that every faith which has money can acquire space on a commercial billboard to celebrate festivities.
Soon, he said Malaysians will be celebrating Hari Raya and billboards will be used for the same purpose by the Muslims to celebrate a significant religious day.
“I don’t think any Christian will criticise such billboards or make an issue of it.
“Sabah is unique in religious tolerance and it should continue to be so. This kind of negative social media postings should be taken down or blocked,” he said.
Sabah PKR Youth information chief Razeef Rakimin said such billboards promoting Good Friday and other religious celebrations are common.
“This has been the norm for years, especially in Inanam and Penampang. But my faith as a Muslim has never felt threatened.
“In Sabah, this is normal because we are not racists, unlike the Umno ilk in the peninsula. That is why Sabahans rejected Umno,” he said.
In less than 24 hours, the post had been shared more than 4,200 times and received more than 9,000 comments from mostly Sabahans, both Muslims and non-Muslims, who took the trouble to “educate” Anina on Sabah’s unique religious tolerance.
One netizen, Suzalina Tungking, said she is a Muslim and her house is opposite a big church with a huge picture of Jesus.
“Every Sunday, I hear the Christians sing their religious songs but my faith never wavers and I never thought of changing my religion. Besides, in Sabah, this (the advertisement) is normal.
“There are some bigger advertisements than this and we were never insulted. I have many non-Muslims in my family and we live in harmony here,” she said.
Another netizen, Mohd Saiful Ismail, said the advertisement is better as it promotes “good things” compared to some advertisements which promote nonsense.
He said although he is a Muslim, his non-Muslim friends are also his brothers.
“So, respect (their religion) and, God willing, our religion will be respected too. I am from the peninsula and I totally agree, people from the peninsula should learn from Sabah and Sarawak about tolerance,” he said.
One netizen, Yanak Wolny Owen, took the posting in jest and said Anina has not yet seen the huge crosses erected on each hill in Sabah.
However, Anina was not without supporters. Quite a few replied to the criticisms levelled against her, saying that Islam had been insulted on various fronts and Muslims have the right to defend their religion.
When contacted by FMT, Anina said she will be issuing a statement later today.